Philippine president Benigno 'Noynoy' Aquino with Mar Roxas (left) and television evangelist Mike Velarde (right) Image Credit: Reuters

Manila: Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas promised to campaign for good governance and anticorruption in 2016, following his endorsement by outgoing President Benigno Aquino as the presidential candidate of the ruling Liberal Party. The move paved the way for his rematch with Vice-President Jejomar Binay, the opposition’s presidential candidate next year, to whom he lost by more than a million votes in the 2010 vice-presidential race.

An economics graduate of University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, Roxas accepted the challenge and said on Friday: “I will give [it] my all, and [give] everything for the country. I will leave nothing for myself. I will leave everything on the floor. I will not digress from the administration’s fight for the straight path.”

“The endorsement is a great honour. I will not squander your trust,” Roxas promised, as allies chanted, “It’s Roxas now, Roxas now” at the historic Cory Aquino Hall of Club Filipino in suburban San Juan.

Praising Aquino, Roxas said the president “has inspired so much confidence and has made so many sacrifices for the country.”

In a show of force, thousands of party members cheered when Aquino made his final choice. He said, “I want a capable successor who has no other bosses, but the people, no political debts to pay, no other interest than the country, who will continue the administration’s straight path.

“Why should we be attracted to other people if there is someone who can surely continue the straight path? For me, the only one who can do that is Mar Roxas,” Aquino added.

Roxas recalled that in 2009 at the same venue he gave way to Aquino as the Liberal Party’s standard bearer for the 2010 elections.

Aquino’s mother, Cory, was sworn-in in the same room as a revolutionary president after the expulsion of former president Ferdinand Marcos by a people-backed military mutiny in 1986.

Meanwhile, Vice-President Binay said Aquino’s endorsement has defined next year’s battlefield, adding he would give his “lucky punch” in a rematch with Roxas. He predicted victory “if elections were clean and honest”.

Party leaders said Roxas is “the man to beat in the 2016 polls,” referring to their war-chest and influence in local government units that Roxas heads as a cabinet member.

Analysts too have agreed that the real fight would be between Roxas and Binay. The latter is besieged by alleged corruption cases that he claimed were politically motivated by the Aquino administration. Roxas is perceived as an Aquino-clone, reactive and reticent. They both belong to the country’s ruling elite, composed largely of land lords.

From Capiz, central Philippines, Roxas, is the son of Senator Gerardo Roxas (born 1925), and grandson of Manuel Acuna-Roxas (born 1892), who was the first president of the independent Philippine Republic from 1946 to 1948. A former investment banker (2000-2003), trade secretary (2004-2010) and transportation secretary (2011-2012), Roxas is married to broadcast journalist Korina Sanchez.

Liberal Party’s members said Roxas is free to choose his vice-presidential candidate, but are also rooting for Senator Grace Poe who has topped recent surveys for presidential candidates.

Poe and Senator Chiz Escudero, however, hinted at plans to run as independent president and vice-president candidates in 2016.

Binay has remained second and Roxas third in surveys for favoured presidential candidates.

Analysts believe the country’s political race is dictated more by leaders’ popularity than their stance on issues.